Palghar: Highlighting the plight of the farming community, more than 50,000 farmers and villagers of Palghar district gathered at Dahanu and took out a rally to protest against the forceful land acquisition for various projects, mainly Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor (MAHSRC). The protesters, who have rallied under the banner of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), raised their concerns over the issues of farmers and villagers who are affected by the proposed MAHSRC project.
The MAHSRC project, or bullet train project, costing Rs. 1.1 lakh crore, is to be built with a loan of Rs.88,000 crore from Japan. The project involves both Maharashtra and Gujarat government and will operate between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The rail corridor will originate from Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, pass through Thane and Palghar districts of Maharashtra and terminate at Sabarmati in Gujarat. Out of the total 508 km railway line, 108 km will pass through the villages in Maharashtra.
For the execution of the bullet train project, National High-Speed Rail Corporation has to acquire more than 850 hectares of land in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, all at the cost of local farmers’ livelihood. Around 192 villages in Gujarat and nearly 120 villages in Maharashtra will be affected by the project.
In Maharashtra, the authorities have initiated the procedures to acquire the land of farmers. “The government had given only verbal assurance to the people and the current move violates the earlier understanding we had with the government,” said one of the people representing AIKS.
On Wednesday, MAHSR officials landed at Dahanu village in Palghar district to conduct a survey for the bullet train route. The residents said that they were unaware of the survey. No notice had been served regarding the land acquisition, they added.
After being informed about the survey and a meeting, which was held at the collector’s office in Niyojan Bhavan, the villagers from Vasai, Palghar, Dahanu and Talasari demonstrated outside the office. The protesters raised slogans against various projects, which were supposed to be established in the region, including Nagpur-Mumbai super communication expressway and Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg projects.
The bullet train project has generated discontent among the Gujarat farmers also. On April 9, farmers gathered in Vadodara where the stakeholders meeting had taken place. The farmers who had gathered there from various project affected regions said that they had been informed about the meeting only a day before the meeting.
Earlier, the farmers’ organisations have pointed out that even though both the states are simultaneously involved in the project, the laws for land acquisition are very different in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The law in Gujarat does not seek the consent of farmers to acquire their own lands.
“In 2016, the Gujarat government had made certain changes in the land acquisition law and had come up with the new Act in which the consent of farmers was no more required and land could be forcibly acquired. In contrast, the land will be acquired in Maharashtra only after negotiation with farmers. For a single project, the two state governments are working on different laws for land acquisition,” said Jayesh Patel, President Khedut Samaj (Gujarat).
However, the actions of Maharashtra state authorities suggest that they are also snatching away the livelihood of farmers. The BJP-led state government’s actions are further burdening the farmers, who are, already, in a crisis due to the agrarian debt, low prices of agricultural produce and adverse effects of climate.